Michael Dunnagan is just 15 when he stows away on the Titanic, hoping to make a better life for himself in America. He befriends a fellow passenger, Owen Allen, who is on his way to join his extended family's landscaping business in New Jersey. When the great ship sinks and it seems certain that Owen will drown, he extracts a promise from Michael. The young Irishman agrees that he will do everything he can to help Allen's American relatives and to take care of Allen's sister, Annie, who has remained in England. Annie, consumed by grief at the loss of her brother, has little interest in answering Michael's letters at first, but he persists in writing, and a relationship slowly blossoms between them. He eventually succeeds in saving enough money to send for her, but the events of World War II derail those plans. Spanning three decades, the novel is rich with historical detail and romance.